Veterans returning to the Owens Valley from service in Iraq now have extra help in finding and re-securing employment.
Local contractor Dan Stone, at the behest of the U.S. Defense Department, will be helping local returning vets get back to their old jobs – positions they sometimes left at a moment’s notice before being deployed overseas and which the law guarantees they have a right to upon their return.
President Barack Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom last week, essentially marking the end of the war for Americans in that country. With that, Americans will welcome home more than 95,000 troops in the coming weeks and months.
Many of those veterans are Reservists and National Guardsmen and women who have a legal right to return to the jobs they left; many had only 24 to 48 hours’ notice before deployment.
To ensure the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act is followed, individuals are asked to serve as mediators for the returning combat vet and his/her employer. Stone, contractor, co-founder of the Owens Valley Contractors and Vendors Association and Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, said he was asked and agreed to volunteer as part of the DOD’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reservists program.
Stone said the ESGR acts as an ombudsman, or third-party group, that is neither for nor against the employer.
The act mandates that guardspeople and reservists have a right to return to their former jobs before being deployed. However, things have changed during war time, especially the current conflicts that have utilized many of these part-time soldiers.
The Iraq war has been going on for so long and tours of duty have been extended at a moment’s notice. Stone said it will not be surprising that some of these employers are no longer in business, or the job has been out-sourced or a technology has made the job obsolete.
“Sometimes, things can get ugly,” Stone said, but, he added, most cases are settled out of court.
Stone said there is a fun side to this. He said there is a chance for the employer and the employee/veteran to be recognized with special events and certificates
And not only does the workplace change for returning veterans, but so has life. Stone said he remembers coming back from Vietnam, and how scared he was. “The world had changed when I came back.”
Stone said because of his experiences, he has a “special place in my heart for these guys.”
He said, “These people have been at war for who knows how long, and they didn’t make enough money, there are holes in the programs to help them out … I’m excited to be able to help these guys out.”
Stone had no numbers for returning vets for Inyo County.
Since the start of the Iraq war, more than 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed and 32,000 wounded. The Iraq war is one of the longest in U.S. history, and the conflict in Afghanistan has been going on even longer and is escalating.